Why write a book about something as hard-nosed and competitive as selling by talking about Chinese Taoist thinking, with a healthy dose of Zen Buddhism and Sufi wisdom thrown in? Sort of like Zig Ziglar meeting Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid.
The selling part is easier to answer. I've been selling sales and leadership consulting services and training for over 25 years, for all but one year always on straight commission -- no guaranteed salary, no company-provided draw. When I sold well, my wife JoAnn and I ate, we paid our mortgage, bought a vacation home, helped my two daughters, Mary and Jenny, get through college, and put money away for retirement. When I had a bad month (or a bad quarter -- or bad year) everything got a whole lot tougher.
But I was blessed with great teachers: my family and friends, several strong, relentlessly caring mentors, and my clients and colleagues, many of whom are listed in the Resources section of this site. I learned to do "easy" from them, and most important for this book,from the tens of thousands of salespeople, managers and executives I've worked with over the years.
Understanding the meaning of "easy" has been a much longer journey. My first 20 years were spent as an English teacher, with stops along the way for a Masters from the BreadLoaf School of English, a Ph.D. in English Renaissance literature from Princeton, and professional training as an actor and stage designer. One colleague, John Conger, introduced me to the Tao Te Ching in the late '60s. I loved it at first sight -- and didn't understand a word of it. Another colleague, Joe Borlo, led me into the maze of Zen Buddhism in the mid 70's. I'm still groping my way around. But the consistent message from my reading was the same:
"The answer is inside you, not the books."
I made the career switch into corporate training in 1981, and lived the next year or so in abject terror that the business and salespeople I taught in communications workshops would discover that I was a total fraud. But in the process, I drew upon what seems to be a high tolerance for risk -- always useful in a successful salesperson (and consultant, for that matter). Running the bulls in Pamplona, tightrope walking the lighting pipes 30' above the stage floor in my years as a theater techie, climbing Mt. Washington in a freezing white-out, navigating Class III and IV rapids in an open canoe, escaping a gun battle in Mexico City -- more stupid things than I can remember. Happily the risks in selling are less life-threatening (and usually less terrifying to the people with me), but the lesson seems clear. We all have fears; what matters is acknowledging them, owning them and embracing them. That way we own our fears, they don't own us.
I've always been a singer and musician (with the good fortune to marry a wonderful flute player and music teacher). Renaissance music, oratorios, opera, a capella singing with the Colgate 13, and bluegrass 5-string banjo. (Latest best read, a gift from Dock Murdock, my guitar-playing buddy of 40 years, The Tao of Willie, by Willie Nelson. If you're a musician, or just love to laugh with a big heart, check it out!) If you're a music junkie, it's all good. It started when my twin brother Pete and I, at age 8, were dragged by our Dad to perform for a bunch of their friends at a party - flogging away on our ukuleles while doing our best with "The Ship Titanic" and "Pecos Bill." Not exactly American Idol material. Our parents friend's applause was most likely the result of their own compassion and kindness, not our performance (helped out, I'm sure, by the cocktails that preceded our concert). When audiences applaud me now, I remember that experience; chances are not much has changed (except for the booze). Music is yet another great gift for what it's helped me learn:
"Not the autocracy of a single stubborn melody on the one hand nor the anarchy of unchecked noise on the other. No, a delicate balance between the two; an enlightened freedom." J.S. Bach
In The Tao of Sales I talk about the experience of living for 20 years on a 10-acre pre-revolutionary farm, raising goats and cultivating a big garden that produced a year's supply of vegetables (tip: keep the goats and vegetables separated). Choosing to slow down for a little while each day and re-connect with what we all come from is a good thing.
Oh yeah: credentials:
Since 1981, I've served both Fortune 500 multinationals and smaller entrepreneurial companies as a consultant in implementing "whole system" solutions to the challenges they face in today's rapidly-changing global economy. I founded my consulting company, Horizons Unlimited Inc. in 1985.
My sales consulting work centers on helping sales forces master new skills and capabilities to meet emerging market challenges and opportunities and helping individual salespeople identify and tap their unrealized potential for sales excellence.
As a consultant and facilitator in marketing, sales and sales leadership, I've worked with thousands of sales people, managers and executives from companies such as Pfizer, Eli Lilly, the Johnson & Johnson Companies, DuPont Pharmaceuticals, Sandoz Pharmaceuticals, Glenbrook Labs, Sanofi, ER Squibb, American Express, TIAA-CREF, Heitman Capital Markets, the Travelers Companies, Capital Management Group (Canada), Paine Webber, NJ Blue Cross Blue Shield, the Estee Lauder Companies, L'Oreal, PR Newswire, and Sony.
In addition to consistently high feedback from client audiences, I've been consistently among the top-rated speakers for the Strategy Institute, the Investment Management Institute, and the Institute for International Research.
I've published numerous articles in the areas of sales/marketing strategies, global leadership development, and cross-functional team effectiveness for Wealth Management Advisory (Toronto), AMA's Management Review, Sales Management (Amsterdam), and Dartnell Corporation's Sales and Marketing Executive Report.
My book, The Tao of Sales: The Easy Way To Sell In Tough Times, recently re-issued by Booksurge, is published in five languages.